Gov. Sam Brownback dismissed a federal investigation connected to his re-election campaign’s finances as baseless Monday shortly after being sworn in for a second term.
He said his campaign had adhered to all laws.
Carol Williams, the executive director of the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, will appear before a federal grand jury Wednesday to testify and provide documents related to loans made to Brownback’s campaign. The only loans made to the campaign were from Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and from Brownback and his wife.
The governor, who was visibly irritated by the question, initially said he would not talk about the matter. When pressed, he said his campaign had followed all regulations.
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“Making loans to campaigns is a common thing to happen. We followed all rules and regulations and we think that that’s what will be borne out,” Brownback said. “This happens all the time. … How many campaigns have you seen loan money?”
It’s common for a candidate to loan money to a campaign. But Colyer’s loans drew media attention because of their unusually quick repayment. Democrats accused the Brownback campaign of using the loans to artificially inflate its fundraising totals.
Colyer made his loan of $500,000 to the campaign three times. He first loaned the money on Dec. 31, 2013, and was repaid Jan. 2, 2014. He made the loan again on July 23 and was repaid two days later.
He made the loan once more on Aug. 13, and the money stayed in the campaign’s coffers through the election. The most recent campaign finance report, through Dec. 31, shows he has since been repaid $400,000.
Brownback and his wife, Mary, also loaned the campaign $200,000.
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said last week that the investigation had no merit after the Associated Press first reported Thursday that Williams had been subpoenaed.
“If there’s no allegations, what are you looking at?” Brownback said, when asked how the administration knew the investigation was without merit before specific allegations had been made. “This is something that we think is baseless.”
Asked if the ongoing investigation could affect his ability to lead, the governor said no. “We’ve got issues to deal with and we’re going to deal with them,” Brownback said.
Colyer would not talk about the investigation or anything else.
The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported that federal investigators were looking at associates of Brownback in April. It is not clear whether the current grand jury investigation is directly related to that investigation. Williams’ subpoena lists representatives from both the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The Senate’s top Democrat said the administration’s quick denial fits a pattern, noting that Brownback repeatedly dismissed warnings about the state’s finances, too.
“I don’t believe that a grand jury would have been convened if there wasn’t some reason to believe that laws have been broken,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said. “It doesn’t matter whether Brownback or Colyer or their people deny it, the people of Kansas need to know the truth.”